Jerry Gray is a far different guy and different coach as he comes to Nashville to be Mike Munchak’s defensive coordinator than he was when he left the franchise in 2000 after four years coaching as an assistant.
To what degree that’s a good thing is something we’ll find out in time.
He had a talented group in his two years as a position coach with the Titans. The franchise played strong safety Blaine Bishop as a hybrid corner/linebacker while asking its corners, keyed by Samari Rolle, to survive on an island in a high pressure 46.
Even if Munchak is looking for a defense to return to those roots, it’ll take time to find that sort of talent, something not easily done these days. Tennessee has evolved into much more of a cover-2 team since Williams and Gray left and Bishop’s time with the team ended.
In the team’s announcement of the hire, Gray said his scheme will fit his talent.
“I am looking forward to really getting to know our personnel on defense and creating a defense that takes advantage of our strengths,” he said. “I am an old school guy that likes to get after the opponent, but you also have to have the players to that -- you can’t force those things. Our defense will fit what we can do well. I also want to thank Coach Brown and University of Texas. I know the timing of this isn’t ideal, but this was something that I couldn’t turn down.”
Gray went with Gregg Williams to Buffalo in 2000, when the Titans’ coordinator got the head coaching gig and Gray became his defensive coordinator.
He outlasted Williams in Buffalo, serving as coordinator through 2005 and then reuniting with Williams, who was coordinating in Washington and coaching the Redskins secondary through 2009.
Last year he oversaw the secondary in Seattle but he had moved on to work for Mack Brown at his alma mater as the head of the University of Texas’ defense.
He was a four-time Pro Bowler as a player, including in his one season with the Houston Oilers in 1992.
“Jerry has a number of qualities that I think are assets for this role: he played the game, he coached a position group and he has coordinating experience,” said Titans head coach Mike Munchak. “I respected him as a player and coach and he was someone that I knew right away that I wanted to talk to about the position. It was evident to me during interview process that he will fit well with us – he is familiar with our system and the type of players that we have on the roster. He is a great teacher and a great person, and I think the players will respond well to his style.”
One side effect I anticipate is that Marcus Robertson, the current secondary coach who was Gray’s free safety in 1999 and 2000, is more likely to remain on the staff.
Gray will have a strong voice in choosing a replacement for defensive line coach Jim Washburn, who left to take the same job with the Eagles, and decided if linebackers coach Dave McGinnis will remain. Munchak has interviewed former Houston defensive coordinator Frank Bush, who could take over linebackers.